Pronounced Keen-wah, this nutritious pseudo-grain is a versatile, nutty tasting seed that can be used in a variety of dishes. While its mainstream popularity is relatively new, this ancient grain has been around for centuries in South America. A few decades ago, NASA looked into making this simple seed astronaut food due to its rich nutritional content. Then, the year 2013 was declared the ‘International Year of Quinoa’ by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in the hopes it would increase awareness to this nutritional powerhouse in more geographic regions. It has also been enthusiastically supported by the health-minded consumers of many countries, the topic of countless websites and blogs, and the focus of innumerable popular cooking show episodes.
And all for good reason too, when compared gram for gram with brown rice, quinoa has the same calories but contains more protein and more healthy fats such as linoleic acid, DHA and choline. It also has higher amounts of minerals including iron, folate, magnesium and zinc to name a few. Quinoa has moderate amounts of calcium and low sodium levels as well. With the nutritional punch this tiny seed packs, it can be an excellent choice for vegans, vegetarians and meat lovers alike!
Although there are multiple ways to cook quinoa, one of the simplest ways is boiling it via stove top. When deciding how much quinoa to make, keep in mind, the cooking process will more than double the original measured volume. It is important to first rinse the seeds in a fine mesh strainer to remove the outer layer known as saponin, which can leave the cooked product tasting bitter. Of note – packaged quinoa is usually pre-rinsed which makes this step unnecessary; be sure to read the container to double check.
Put the quinoa into a pot with twice as much water or broth as dry quinoa seeds. Cook the mixture on medium-high until it has been boiling for a few minutes, at this point, remove the pot from the heat and cover. Let the mixture sit for approximately 10-15 minutes or until seeds become tender. You can visually tell quinoa is ready to eat when the outer ring has detached itself from some of the seeds; this will look like little spirals in your pot.
Use the cooked quinoa as a substitute for rice in your favorite dishes. You can also make your own quinoa creation by adding almost any combination of protein sources or produce items. Feel as though you lack creativity? Utilize technology and scroll through the infinite number of delicious quinoa recipes online and on Pinterest for inspiration. You will quickly find the fun doesn’t stop at quinoa salads, there are quinoa cookies, quinoa meatballs, quinoa protein bars and just about everything else under the sun. With that being said, it’s time to get in the kitchen and try some new recipes, happy eating!
Simple Quinoa Salad
1 ½ cups Quinoa
3 cups water
1 large handful chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp olive oil
drizzle of honey or agave nectar
1 /1 cups chopped grape tomatoes
1 lemon or lime
- First, rinse quinoa thoroughly in a small strainer. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Put quinoa in water and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook until all water is absorbed (10-15 minutes).
- While the quinoa is cooking, halve your tomatoes and cut up your avocado and cilantro.
- Once the quinoa is cooked, drizzle w/ olive oil and agave or honey and sprinkle with salt, pepper.
- Stir up the quinoa to release some heat and bring to room temp.
- Stir in avocado, tomato and cilantro, squeeze your citrus over this, toss and enjoy!
My name is Kendal and I am a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University. I earned my Master’s degree in Food and Nutrition in May 2015. I hope to be a clinical dietitian in the future, specializing in pediatric nutrition. I am married with two children, aged 4 and 1 who keep me entertained and very busy. I also love to run or do anything active in my free time. I recently finished my first sprint triathlon at the end of July and am already excited to sign up for #2!